08 July 2008

U.S. Army Gives West Virginia First Crack At Murderers of Pastor Mark McCalla

The United States Army, which technically "owns" two deserters who murdered a West Virginia pastor last month, will take a back seat and let West Virginia prosecute the two men first before it files desertion charges.

Daniel Smith, 22, of Newport News, Va., and Stephen Wilson, 19, of Cincinnati, Ohio, are accused of murdering McCalla, a good friend whom I met when we were sophomores in high school in Columbus.

"The Army says Smith and Wilson went AWOL in early May from Fort Drum in New York, where they served as infantrymen with the 10th Mountain Division.

"While he couldn't comment on Smith and Wilson specifically, Fort Drum public information officer Capt. Fredrick Harrell said the Army typically court-martials deserters -- soldiers who have been AWOL for more than 30 days -- under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Right now, however, the Army is cooperating with West Virginia authorities in the murder investigation, Harrell said.

"Smith and Wilson are charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of the Rev. Mark McCalla at the Beech Fork Wildlife Management Area shooting range on June 19. McCalla died from a single gunshot wound to the head. His body, which had been dragged about 20 yards, was found by a state forestry worker."

The two waived extradition last week in Columbus, where they were captured a few days after the murder.

They allegedly told a third individual, another Army deserter, that they had shot the pastor whose name was in the news. From what I've learned, Mark was shot in the face.

I can only imagine what their fate will be, assuming they are found guilty. There is no death penalty in West Virginia, but assuming the evidence against them is strong, the deck will be stacked against them ever seeing the outside of a prison cell again. Military deserters, accused of killing a very, VERY popular minister, at a shooting range, abusing his corpse by dragging his body into some brush, all taking place in a very conservative state . . .

Hmmm . . .

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